What is the purpose of a small group within a church? Maybe you’re part of a small church or a large church, but chances are there is some kind of small group system or a smaller Bible study that meets sometime during the week. Fellowship is a great part of Christians meeting together, but small groups are about so much more than just “hanging out in the name of Jesus.”
Rick Warren addresses 7 Ways a Small Group can Reach People for Jesus in his recent Pastors.com article.
He relates the story of the paralytic in Luke 5 to how a small group should look at evangelism.
“Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, ‘Friend, I forgive your sins.’” Luke 5:18-20, Msg
Warren points out that the four men’s actions were radical; they were willing to pay a price to get their friend to Jesus. How many of us look at evangelism that way? Are we willing to take radical steps and pay a high price to tell people about Christ?
Here are 3 of the 7 ways your small group can reach people for Jesus:
Most importantly, your small group must care about the lost.
You may say of course, or everyone knows that… But not everyone does that. Do your actions and the actions of your small group show that you care about unbelievers? If not, then this is the first step your small group should take. Start asking these questions: Why should I care about the lost? Why does God care about the lost? Why should my small group care about the lost? You cannot proceed to any other evangelistic steps until this one is set in your hearts. Warren states,
“Before you can care about others, you must become aware of them. Once a small group becomes aware of those who don’t have a relationship with Christ, they should start praying for them.”
According to Warren,
Your church’s small groups should pray for three things:
· an opportunity to share your faith in a non-threatening way
· for God to soften their hearts
· for God to soften the hearts of those in the small group
A good idea for your small group is to have everyone in the group write down 2 or 3 names on a piece of paper; these should be the names of lost people. This may be a family member, friend, co-worker, child’s teacher etc. Start praying for these people by name each week. The more you pray for them, the more real the need to reach them becomes.
Next, your small group must believe that God can reach the lost.
Someone who is lost doesn’t have faith of their own; Warren says it’s the faith of the small group that can help lead them to Jesus. If someone seems hopeless, don’t give up on them because nothing is too hard for God. The four men in story could have given up, but they didn’t. They believed that Jesus could heal their friend, and they believed that God would make a way for them to get him to Jesus. Warren explains,
“The Bible said the paralytic’s sins were forgiven when Jesus saw the faith of the four friends. There are people paralyzed in our world who aren’t necessarily physically paralyzed but who have a paralyzed faith. Whether they’re paralyzed by doubts, loneliness, fear or anything else, the result is the same – they need the faith of others.”
Your small group should be faith cheerleaders, remembering that God is the only one who can actually reach the person and change their life.
Thirdly, your small group needs to come up with a plan to reach the lost.
Bringing someone to God requires a plan. The four men in the story came up with an unconventional plan to get their friend to Jesus, and it worked. Warren advises,
“Although faith and prayer are important ingredients to bringing others to Jesus, you need to do something too. You need a plan.”
The best evangelism does not come from throwing someone into an awkward situation. The best evangelism comes from knowing the different ways and styles of evangelism and knowing which style works best with different people. Chances are someone you just met or don’t know well, is not going to want to hear your 30 minute testimony.
Have your group practice sharing shorter testimonies, 1-2 minutes in length. Practice genuine conversation starters; no one wants to be talked down to or lectured. Prepare your small group for rejection, but encourage them that rude people are few and far between when evangelism is done the right way. Come up with ideas for your group to practice evangelism like serving food at a homeless park or shelter or inviting non-believers to a dinner party with believers, and encourage your group members to practice one-on-one evangelism through relationship building.
Crosswalk contributor Philip Nation reminds us,
“Fellowship is one of the functions of the church, but it is not the ultimate reason for small groups. Transformation is. Small groups draw people together with a higher purpose than just hanging out in the name of Jesus. We want to draw people around His Word so they can be fed and then transformed by it.”
You can read Rick Warren’s full article with all 7 ways here.
If your small group is not currently taking steps to reach the lost, ask your group why and encourage them to join you as you share Jesus with others.
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com
Publication date: September 21, 2015